Another Day in Paradise
American has always loved road movies. This genre of film has certainly changed a lot since the forties when a road movie was Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Now, a road movie is usually darker, more foreboding. This is certainly the case with Another Day in Paradise. Instead of song and dance this movie chronicles sex, drugs, violence and crime. The story opens up with Bobbie (Vincent Kartheiser ) a thief wannabe that rips off coin operated machines in the basement of a junior college. He needs the money to support himself and his girlfriend Rosie (Natasha Gregson Wagner) in their heroin habits. During the robbery Bobbie manages to beat the night watchman to death. All of this violence was for a bag a quarters. Soon Bobbie and Rosie met up with Uncle Mel (James Wood) and his girlfriend Sid (Melanie Griffith). The four take off on the road to crime. Mel is a fast talking, very slick criminal type. He is charming to everyone as long as there is money in his pocket and dope in his veins. The foursome travel around smoking cigarettes by the cartoon, getting high and always planning the next big job. Mel takes Bobbie under his wing making him into a passable thief. While this is going on Sid and Roisie are bounding in a cross between mother/daughter and best friends. Sid cant have children and she soon adopts the ragged pair as if they where her own kids. Since Bobbie and Rosie never had much of a home life themselves they fall easily into the roles. Of course, everything does not go smoothly and soon they are deep in several situations they cant handle. The ending is surprisingly well done and human even though youll probably see it coming.
The acting in this film carries it. The story is a bit predictable but this cast of four incredibly talented people draws you into the film. What can be said about Woods and Griffith) that has not already been said. They are perfect. Very few actors can play a sleazy, dope fiend criminal and get you to actually care about him. Woods does this with ease. He wears the role of Uncle Mel like an older, comfortable sweater. Woods plays Mel as the criminal Yoda, dispensing his wisdom to an eager student. Griffith as the ever smoking Sid shows a tender, tragic side to this character. The real danger here is to play this role too much as the floozy, the dumb blonde. While Griffith portrays Sid as a woman devoted to her man she is her own person, is capable of love and tries to show others she cares. The tragedy is Sid is also a drug addict and criminal. They way the character is played you have to wonder what went so wrong in this womans life that this is how it turned out. Kartheiser has been liken to a young Brad Pitt in Kalifornia. I can see the similarity especially since they are both the same type of film. While Kartheiser does not have the charisma of Pitt he works hard at his role. Wagner is the daughter of Robert Wagner and has inherited her fathers talent. Wagner shows unusual depth in playing Rosie. Again sympathy is invoked in a character that you would not image having any concern for what so ever.
Larry Clark must have had a very strange childhood. First he writes and directs Kids, about a group of hedonistic teenagers in Manhattan. Now he takes his despair on the road with Paradise. In this his second film he basically continues themes begun in Kids. The extended family is one such theme. When the real family fails kids will search for another family among their friends. While Kids showed the children turning to their peers, Paradise shows the extreme influence an adult can have on young adults like Bobbie and Rosie. Another is short term bless brings long term misery. In both movies Clark has hedonistic central characters that may seem like they get away with a lot but they lose so much inside they are barely human. Clark is learning about how to use a camera. While Kids had a very effective documentary style, Paradise displayed better use of the cinematography. His use of score is still progressing but there is a lot of promise here. He paces the film with fast moving almost static cuts. Like the lives of the characters the film give you an uneasy, jagged feel that pulls you along.
The disc is very well constructed. There is a fascinating commentary track by Clark, a music video as well as the typical cast bios etc. The Dolby 5.1 audio makes typical use of ambience and follows the action well. The video is 1.66:1 although some listings has this as full screen. There are two versions on the disc. The first side is the unrated, longer cut. Flip this over for the theatrical R release. Whether you are one of the growing number of Clark fans out there or you just want a movie that displays great acting this is one to watch.